LAHORE - World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan) along with GB Tourism Department, Social Economic and Environmental Development (SEED) Project for the Central Karakoram National Park (CKNP) and Serena Hotel Gilgit, joined hands to celebrate International Mountains Day in Gilgit by organising a seminar on “Mountains: key for sustainable future” attended by people from different walks of life including academia, government departments, civil society organisation and media.

The United Nations General Assembly has declared 11th December as the International Mountain Day to raise awareness on importance of mountains to life.

Experts in the seminar highlighted numerous functions and services of mountain ecosystems of the world in general and of Gilgit-Baltistan – the home of mountains – in particular.

Sadia Danish, Information Minister and Advisor to the Chief Minister Gilgit-Baltistan on Tourism, Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs attended the occasion as Chief Guest and applauded efforts of organisations and individuals for showcasing significance to its inhabitant for providing life sustaining goods and services

 “The world mountainous ranges, spread over 24% of the earth’s surface and supporting about 26% of the global population, are facing ecological destruction creating serious implications for the local communities, most of which are poorest and highly vulnerable people in the world”, says Dr Babar Khan, Senior Manager Conservation Gilgit-Baltistan, WWF-Pakistan. He added that the mountainous landscapes of GB are the primary watersheds of Indus River and almost 75% of water into Indus River System is contributed by its tributaries including Shango, Shyok, Shigar, Hunza, Ghizer, Astore, emanating from the northern mountains.

Hasan Sadpara, a renowned mountaineer whose claim of fame is to be the fastest climber on Everest (8848m) by summiting the peak in four days without using supplementary oxygen, shared his experience of mountaineering highlighted various issues that he faces while promoting mountaineering in Gilgit-Baltistan.

He aimed to transfer his skills to the youth of Gilgit-Baltistan through establishing a mountaineering school in Skardu and Advisor tourism assured him to benefit from his rich experiences for promotion of high-altitude hiking and climbing in Gilgit-Baltistan.

“Tourism sector of Gilgit-Baltistan in the presence of the highest concentration of peaks such as K-2, Gaserbrum-I, Gasherbrum-II,  Broad Peak and Nanga Parbat  possesses huge potential for economic upliftment, not only in Gilgit-Baltistan but entire Pakistan” said by Akhter Hussain Rizvi, Secretary Tourism, Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs of Gilgit-Baltistan.

For this purpose “the tourism department, though newly established in Gilgit-Baltistan in 2006 has taken important steps like developing tourism policy for the region”, he added.

The Deputy Director Tourism Yassir Hussain shared possible initiatives for promotion of tourism in Gilgit-Baltistan such as improving road access by developing alternative of Karakoram Highway; operations of all-weather domestic flights; international transit flights and establishing proper tourism facilities.

He emphasized to brand Gilgit-Baltistan as the “Jewel of Pakistan” to portray the natural beauty of this area.

Asghar Khan, Assistant Director, Serena Hotels shared the initiatives of Serena Hotel Chains in promoting responsible tourism in Gilgit-Baltistan. He mentioned community development projects undertaken by Shigar and Khaplu Fort Residencies managed by Serena Hotels.